Back in days of yore when I was a serial monogamist, and this is years now, as Amy and I have been together since 1995, I had one lonely Valentine's Day, and that's good enough for me to write about it. After all, it might as well rain candy conversation hearts as soon as Punxsutawney Phil has his moment in the sun, the way even the VP shooting someone isn't enough news to push off stories of love, and ways to show it (hint: BUY something) from TV and the papers, even if some of those stories purport to be tongue-in-cheek when they tell you about how the rich woo each other with roomsful of Vera Wang wedding dresses (like no one has bothered to read Gatsby
and therefore can't remember where conspicuous clothes displays get you).
But I digress while I mean to depress. It wasn't just my first solo VD (perhaps a telling abbreviation?), but one after a long-term relationship went bad, but so slow in coming, like watching a horse and rider make its mile-by-mile way across Monument Valley, only to let the rider still surprise you upon arrival and put a bullet in your heart. And I was in a new town, this one, Santa Barbara, where everyone and everything is too beautiful too often. Till you think about yourself.
So, the big day when love, hearts and flowers are supposed to come tied in a new bow (just because the three words rhymed in Provencal, and we haven't learned a lick about our emotions since the Troubadours trilled in the 13th century), makes me think--hell, why not wallow. The move left me kind of broke, especially since you could rent a house in State College PA for what a studio went for in SB then (the hidden price, of course, is you're in Pennsylvania). Nonetheless, I figured even if I was dating someone then, I'd blow a bunch of money, so why not do something impetuous, and for me that usually means a visit to the expensive aisle of a wine store. I'd yet to have Dom Perignon, so I decided to fix that and that my date for VD would be Dom.
As I got my solo kick from champagne, I also knew I had to memorialize things, for after all even when dating yourself, you need the right soundtrack. So I put together a mixed tape I'm still proud of, one full of sadness (Iris DeMent), snootiness (Fred Astaire), wittiness (Magnetic Fields), obscurantism (Ed's Redeeming Qualities) and snottiness (Archers of Loaf), and therefore a whole lot like me. It loses oomph at the end, but don't we all. And it goes a little something like this:Where Is My Anything?Side A
Fred Astaire "By Myself"
Billy Bragg "Walk Away Rene" (version)
Nick Lowe "Where Is My Everything?"
Ed's Redeeming Qualities "More Bad Times"
Iris DeMent "When Love Was Young"
East River Pipe "Dogman"
Guided by Voices "Gleemer (the Deeds of Fertile Jim)"
Yo La Tengo "You Tore Me Down"
Bettie Serveert "Tell Me, Sad"
11th Dream Day "Bearish on High"
Archers of Loaf "Wrong"
Sebadoh "Magnet's Coil"
New Order "Ceremony"
Roxy Music "All I Want"
Elvis Costello "Love for Tender"
Alex Chilton "No Sex"Side B
Richard Thompson "I Can't Wake Up to Save My Life"
John Wesley Harding "The Person You Are"
Ian Hunter "All of the Good One's Are Taken"
Lloyd Cole and the Commotions "Grace"
XTC "The Disappointed"
The Pogues "Lorelei"
Graham Parker "Temporary Beauty"
John Hiatt "When We Ran"
No Such Animal "God Damn Everything"
New Musik "Straight Lines"
Marshall Crenshaw "Cynical Girl"
Golden Palominos "Little Suicides"
Heavenly "3 Star Compartment"
Magnetic Fields "The Flowers She Sent and the Flowers She Said She Sent"
Of course the wine and the tape were finished too fast, so even my glorious celebration of loneliness risked losing its game that gave it meaning. I decided to take a walk and ended up blocks down State Street to where it becomes Stearns Wharf over the Pacific. How romantic, to be out in the dark, the waves doing their lazy break below my feet, and almost everywhere couples, hands held, eyes locked, whispers heard. Tight with tunes, singing a bit to myself from my champagne, I thought it clever to think, "Alas, lovers, even you for whom things go well have sadness in your future; as Stephen Dunn writes, 'Wasn't a deferred loneliness waiting for them?'"
Yes, I probably self-righteously woozily ruminated, complete with semi-colon and poetry quote. And I only hope that if one day holding my sweet wife's hand I see some loner like that old me out on the wharf half-smiling to himself, then I give him a push into the ocean.